Salazar told the Washington Post on Friday that National Park officials have 30 days to replace the quote, which drew quick complaints from black leaders, a King family member and others when the memorial was first unveiled last summer.
The quote sits on the side of a large stone sculpture of King, the centerpiece of the monument. "I was a drum major for justice, peace and righteousness," it reads.
The phrase is not a direct quote, but a paraphrase from 1968 sermon delivered just before King's death.
"If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter," King said in 1968.
Officials said the fuller quote did not fit on the allotted space.
Poet Maya Angelou told the Post that the abbreviated version changed the meaning of King's words and made him look like “an arrogant twit.” Salazar, too, had suggested he was also concerned about the inscription.
He told the Post on Friday that a group of King family members, the King Memorial Foundation, and others would be tasked with deciding on a replacement.